Frugal or Flashy? Inauguration Events Find Balance
As the nation’s capital gears up for the inauguration and the numerous associated events, organizers are grappling with the same issues being hashed out in corporate event departments and independent event businesses all around the country this holiday season — a desire to celebrate, without looking too extravagant.
It’s one component the Presidential Inaugural Committee, which plans official events such as the inaugural parade and inaugural balls, is struggling with right now, said Laura Schwartz. Schwartz will cover the behind-the-scenes action at the inaugural balls for CBS’ “The Early Show.” The featured speaker at the 2009 Event Solutions and Catersource Conference & Tradeshow this February, she has been a contributor to the “The Early Show” since August, in addition to contributions to CNN and “Larry King Live.”
“I think we’re going to see a lot less bling,” she said. “It’s going to be scaled back. I think that’s going to be a very interesting balance.”
The economy is also playing into the planning of the Creative Coalition’s much-anticipated inaugural ball, said Jaci Reid, managing director at Washingon, D.C.-based Westin Reinhart, the organization’s PR firm. The ball will take place at the Harman Centre for the Arts.
“Corporations are really looking very closely at their bottom line as they host and participate in these types of events this year, because they’re on a tight budget as well,” she said. “They want to make sure, is this the event that I should do? Am I going to get the most with this event for my dollar? Because there are a lot of games in town for this inauguration.”
But that doesn’t mean the capital’s not gearing up for one heck of a party. Indeed, the District of Columbia passed a law allowing bars and restaurants to serve alcohol until 4 a.m. from Jan. 16 through Jan. 20.
“People really want to celebrate this and really want to be a part of something bigger than ever before, so I think that it’s going to be as big as ever, if not bigger,” said Leslie Hayes of Hayes & Associates, a D.C.-based PR firm that is planning several balls, including the Florida Inaugural Dinner & Late Night, to be held at the National Museum of the American Indian.
Picking up on the Obama campaign’s theme of inclusivity are a number of events aimed at those who want to have the inauguration experience, but may not be able to afford a glamorous inaugural ball. The We the People Inaugural Celebration, produced by the Alvin James Group, boasts VIP experiences, but will also be able to accommodate 20,000 people with FedExField as its venue.
“It’s based upon ‘We the People’ because this election, more than anything, was a symbol of people just coming together and exercising their democratic right and making a change,” said Reginald S. Roberson of Atlanta-based Lavish Lifestyles, who is producing VIP suites and coordinating talent for the event. “A lot of people can’t afford to go to a ball, and we figured what better place than a stadium?”
It won’t be the first VIP experience Roberson has created. Attendees of Event Solutions’ 2008 conference will remember the seductive, Asian-inspired sponsor lounge he produced at the Fabulous Showcase event.
Young and Powerful for Obama, a fundraising organization targeting young people, is staging a number of events and also aims for inclusivity. The events “are a way for us to engage those people that really can’t afford to go to high-priced events but still want to participate in the Inauguration,” said My’Ron McGee, one of the co-founders of the organization. Its gala will be held at L’Enfant Plaza Hotel.
With event budgets decreased around the country, the inauguration and the myriad related events is a bright spot for many in the events industry — professionally as well as personally.
“For me, it’s historic,” said Roberson. “I know I’ll never get to work on anything like this project again.”